February marks Black History Month. Follow the AJC this month for a series of short stories and videos and people, places and events that played a significant role in the development of black people in America.
In 1829, in Baltimore, James Nicholas Joubert started what would become the first successful order of Roman Catholic nuns of African descent, the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The first four sisters were Elisabeth Lange from Santiago, Cuba, Mary Rosine Boegues and Mary Frances Balas of Saint Domingue and Mary Theresa Duchemin of Baltimore. Lange was chosen as mother superior and the order chose the Blessed Virgin as their patron. St. Benedict the Moor was their second patron. On Oct. 2, 1831, the Oblate Sisters of Providence was blessed by Pope Gregory XVI and the following year they joined the Association of the Holy Slavery of the Mother of God. The Sisters initially opened a small French-language school for Haitian children, but it eventually grew St. Frances Academy, the first Black Catholic School for children in Baltimore. Founded in 1828, St. Frances Academy is still in operation today, making it the oldest continuously operating school for black Catholic children in the country. Today, the Sisters have about 80 members and runs schools and programs throughout the country and in the Caribbean.